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Bailout Schmailout

By Dian Vujovich

I thought the first $700 billion sought by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to buy back troubled assets was a whacked-out plan when I heard it and was more befuddled when Congress approved the grander $850 billion.

Like many, I found the secretary’s request an outrageous sum to ask for, particularly when it didn’t come with a clear plan about how the money would be used or with a committee in place to make sure that what had the potential to be a freewheeling handout wouldn’t turn into a fox guarding the henhouse kind of event.

It seemed as though everyone from Capitol Hill to Main Street choked at the thought of that new debt. Then the terms changed, and as mysteriously as any good magician can pull a rabbit from a seemingly empty black top hat, it swelled to $850 billion with $700 billion still earmarked for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP).

I’m still scratching my head over that one. Everybody on Capitol Hill must be a knucklehead or at the very least numbers’ challenged. How else could lawmakers figure that $700 billion was an exorbitant amount of money one week and $850 billion OK the next?

And what was with the hurry? Shades of President Bush’s gotta-rush-into-war crossed my mind when the bailout bill had to be passed right away. Remember how the reasons behind that hurried war turned out to be inaccurate? Five years from now we’ll all probably be reading about the truth behind this bailout and how it could have been avoided or handled differently.

Most of us non-presidential, non-Wall Street or non-members of Congress types know that fast-fixes typically don’t make sense and rarely work. I had hoped that given a little time, some financial sages, or a group of them, would come up with a better idea about how to solve our housing and economic problems. Maybe the Wall Street wizards who designed the investment vehicles that had a hand in creating the housing mess would concoct some kind of elixir to make it all better.

But that didn’t happen and now we’re all caught in some state of shock-and-awe in which the monies already doled out haven’t been spent as intended, the game rules have changed again and buying back assets is no longer a part of the plan. Oh, and by the way, the rabbit died and the plan needs more money.

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